Answering Frequently Asked Questions
Interviews are one of the most nerve-racking experiences you will have to go through in your job search. The secret to interviewing is to practice. The more you practice the easier interviewing will become.
While all jobs and all interviewers are not the same, there are certain questions that are usually asked of candidates during an interview. These questions fall into two categories: “the getting to know you” questions and “the why do you want this job” questions. Also, even though companies are looking for different things, most employers look for candidates with the following characteristics:
- Ability to assume responsibility
- Organizational/planning skills
- Willingness to work hard
- Nice personal appearance
- Ability to handle stress
- Written communication skills
- Job-related experience
- Entrepreneurial spirit
- Interpersonal skills
- Need for advancement
- Appropriate academic major
- Oral communication skills
- Defined career goals
- Strong GPA
- Interest in the job
- Computer literacy
There are some questions that employers typically ask. Listed next are examples of them and some hints on how to answer them.
- Tell me about yourself.
Do not get rattled by this question, and do not go into your life story. Think of the qualities that employers look for: Do you have an example of how you demonstrated some of these qualities? If you do, then state that. If that doesn’t work for you, then qualify the question. Ask “What area of my background would be most relevant to you?” and take it from there.
- Can you work under pressure?
Don’t just give a yes or no answer; elaborate. Explain why.
- Describe the relationship that should exist between a teacher and principal?
Since this is not a behavioral question meaning it isn’t asking about what you have experienced before, answer it thinking of what you envision as being the relationship between teacher / principal. Don’t just make it up. Think about why you would want a supervisor to be supportive or hands-off or a mentor or give autonomy, etc. Be realistic in thinking about whether or not your potential supervisor is asking the question and what his or her style seems to be now. This is a good question to ask of him or her, too.
- What are three of your strengths?
Isolate high points in your background. Always back your answers with specific examples. You do have at least three strengths. Your biggest mistake here is to sell yourself short!
- What aren’t you good at?
This is a direct invitation to put your head in a noose. Decline the invitation. There are three ways to approach this question.
If there is a minor part of the job about which you lack knowledge but will gain it quickly, use that. Be careful using this one.
Put the weakness in the past. You had it once, but now you are over it.
Design the answer so that your weakness is ultimately a positive. This one is your best move.
- Why do you want to be a teacher?
This question tries to examine your reasoning processes. The way to tackle this question is to focus on the practical. Also, an employer may be able to tell whether or not you enjoy your field. Enthusiasm is important.
- What do you know about our school?
You cannot answer this without researching the company. If you didn’t do your research (shame on you!), just tell them what you read. There is a handout in Career Services on how to research a company.
- What do you think it takes to be a good teacher? Do you fit that profile?
You should really think about this ahead of time. Think of three top traits that you believe a teacher should possess. Give examples or reasons why you chose these three things. Make sure they are three things YOU also possess. Give examples of how you have demonstrated each trait.
- What two or three things are most important to you in your job?
Be honest here, too. But also be professional and career-oriented. Talk in terms of values such as: helping and educating students, interacting with many different people, making tough decisions, having a variety of responsibilities, having the opportunity for advancement, being recognized for your contributions, making a difference in peoples’ lives, etc. Stay away from those more egocentric reasons such as pays well, great vacation and benefits package, fun social atmosphere, easy commute, cool uniform.
- What do you like best about working with kids? Least?
Again, be honest and give examples. Talk about any experience you have had with kids. If you really loved a certain experience, talk about that experience and the skills you used, relating with your current field. Be honest also with the least liked aspect. Be sure this is appropriate. Refer back to the weaknesses question. Use something that is not too negative.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Employers want to see that you are thinking about the future. A good way to answer is to identify yourself with the profession you want to get into.
- How are you preparing yourself to achieve your goals (getting you to where you see yourself in five years)?
This question focuses on your reality of having attainable goals and the motivation to achieve them. Give examples of what you’re doing to get you closer to those goals.
- Tell me about a difficult situation and how you dealt with it.
Talk about a work-related situation, if possible. Avoid any personal stories of past relationship breakups. However, some stories of personal struggle, when relayed carefully without too much detail, may be helpful in showing your determination and ability to “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”.
- Would you handle that same situation differently now? If so, how?
Honestly talk about how, through this experience, you’ve gained some new tools or skills with which you might react differently in the same situation again. Sometimes this may even be a change in how you reacted to the difficulty of the situation.
- Tell me about a time when you were an excellent teacher.
This should be a story of going above and beyond to assist someone.
- Tell me about a time when you were most proud.
Again, try to keep it career-related. Make sure you are proud because of something you accomplished rather than being proud of someone or something else of which you had no contribution.
- How have your college and student teaching experiences prepared you for a career?
Talk about a couple of concrete skills you have learned which will be of benefit to you in your position.
- How do you go about developing lesson plans?
Think of a time when you developed something creative and unique. Describe your process. Be sure to talk about how it was received.
- How do you think a friend or professor who knows you well would describe you?
Of course, be honest. Think about any compliments you have gotten on projects or activities. Don’t just tell characteristics, but include examples of why friends or professors would describe you that way.
- Why should I hire you?
This is where you should really sell yourself. Highlight areas from your background that relate to the company’s needs. Recap the interviewer’s description of the job, matching it with your skills.
- What kinds of varied learning activities have you planned/implemented this year and why?
This question is looking for evidence that the teacher is creative and resourceful and can adjust strategies & procedures to meet the needs of students.
- Tell me about your teaching style.
Demonstrate your positive attitude, commitment to children, flexibility, willingness to work with an array of abilities and that you can employ a variety of activities.
- How do you build positive student self-concept when working with children?
Talk about your desire for student successes, confidence, motivation, interactions, avoiding put-downs, dealing with problems in private, and providing opportunity for recovery.
- How do you use technology to improve your teaching and enhance the curriculum?
Talk about your personal use of technology and how you link technology to curriculum objectives.
- If I observed you teaching a lesson, what are some things I would notice?
This question is looking for you to display that you are child centered and use a variety of strategies catering to various learning styles. Use hands on experiences.
- You know that a staff member has been talking behind your back about what he or she sees as your ineffective teaching methods. What would you do?
- How would you assist children in their development of critical thinking and problem solving skills?
- How do you feel the “rapid learner” should be provided for in your area of teaching?
- Some of your students always finish their assignments early. How would you deal with the free time that they have?
- How would you work with students who perform below grade level, especially those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds?
- Are parent/teacher conferences important? Why or why not?
- How would you use teacher aides and parent volunteers?
- What is your philosophy of education?
- What do you especially like or dislike about your educational training to date?
- How do you want your students to view you? Do you want your students to like you?
- What are some factors that you feel are most important in motivating you to do your best work?
- How important is organization and planning for a teacher?
- Are you a perfectionist? Do you expect perfection of students?
- What type of supervision would be helpful to you?
- What would you do if a supervising principal criticized a technique you were using?
- What are your perceptions of the role of a principal?
- Would you describe yourself as a team member or an individual achiever?
- Would you describe any student management techniques that have been particularly effective for you?
- Would you comment on how you interact with students, teachers, associates, supervisors, and parents?
- To what extent do you use a lesson design model (such as Madeline Hunter) in your teaching?
- What is your feeling toward district curriculum guidelines as they relate to your classroom teaching?
- What are your sources of ideas?
- How do you relate with minority students in the classroom?
- What do you want to achieve as a teacher?
- How do you motivate students to learn?
- What is your philosophy of discipline?
- What is your plan for disciplining students?
Candidates Must Ask Questions, Too
If you are serious about teaching in the district you are interviewing, there are many questions to which you need to know the answers before you accept an offer. Your interviewer will surely cover some of your questions, but by asking pertinent questions you will show your interviewer that you do understand fundamental issues relating to teaching. You should have several questions in mind before you arrive for your interview. The following 17 questions should give you a good start.
- What is the teacher/student ratio in your district?
- Do you encourage teachers to earn advanced degrees?
- How many classes a day will I be expected to teach?
- Do you have teachers serving in areas for which they do not have full certification?
- Tell me about the students who attend this school.
- What textbooks does the district use in this subject area?
- Do teachers participate in curriculum review and change?
- What support staff members are available to help students and teachers?
- How does the teaching staff feel about new teachers?
- What discipline procedures does the district use?
- Do parents support the schools? Does the community?
- Do your schools use teacher aides or parent volunteers?
- What allowances are provided for supplies and materials?
- Does the administration encourage field trips for students?
- How are teachers assigned to extracurricular activities? Is compensation provided?
- Does the district have a statement of educational philosophy or mission?
- What are the prospects for future growth in this community and its schools?